Sensuous and the Sacred: Chola Bronzes from South India

Sensuous and the Sacred: Chola Bronzes from South India

by Vidya Dehejia, Richard H. Davis, R. Nagaswamy, Karen Pechilis Prentiss
     
 

The Sensuous and the Sacred focuses on the exquisite temple bronzes produced during the Chola period, a time of unparalleled creativity in the history of the Indian subcontinent. By the beginning of the tenth century, Hindu devotees began to visualize their deities as having public personas not unlike those of human monarchs. Worshipped as living entities, the

Overview

The Sensuous and the Sacred focuses on the exquisite temple bronzes produced during the Chola period, a time of unparalleled creativity in the history of the Indian subcontinent. By the beginning of the tenth century, Hindu devotees began to visualize their deities as having public personas not unlike those of human monarchs. Worshipped as living entities, the deities participated in a variety of daily, weekly, monthly, and annual rituals and festivities; to fulfill these funcitons, portable images were required. Thus were created the spectacular temple bronzes of south India.

For more than four hundred years, from the ninth to the thirteenth century, the Chola dynasty was the dominant cultural, artistic, religious, and political force in south India. During the golden age of Chola rule, music and dance, poetry and drama, philosophy and religious thought, and the arts of sculpture, bronze-casting, jewelry-making, painting, and architecture reached new heights. The temple was the center of all activity, and the Cholas built and decorated some of the most impressive temples in south India. These were primarily Hindu, though Buddhist and Jain shrines were also supported by Chola royalty.

Vidya Dehejia holds the Barbara Stoler Miller Chair in Indian Art at Columbia University. Other contributors include Richard H. Davis, R. Nagaswarmy, and Karen Pechillis Prentiss.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With an opening chapter entitled "Chola Bronzes: How, When, and Why," this scholarly encomium draws in the uninitiated from the outset, documenting an art form that remains part of daily life and ritual for Hindus in southeastern India. Chola "temple bronzes"-so-named because they are used in the worship of Vishnu, Shiva (along with his consort Uma) and other Hindu gods-were produced in the Tamil-speaking region of South India during the reign of the Chola dynasty in the 9th through the 13th centuries, using the still-existing "lost wax" technique. Dehejia, a professor of Indian art at Columbia, presents 185 illustrations (160 in color), carefully explaining poses (often via ancient verse), ornamentation and regional differences among the figures, which are often depicted as female, exquisitely proportioned and fecund. The book's title captures the bronzes' unique fusion of spiritual attainment and physical allure, still not widely known (or comprehended) in the West. In that sense, this work makes an excellent introduction to a worldview quite different from the scientific one, which splits off the spiritual from physical life; Dehejia and the four other scholar-essayists here neither exoticize the figures nor play down their very real attractions. The book serves as the catalogue to an exhibition on view until March at the National Museum of Asian Art for the United States, part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This aptly titled catalog, accompanying an exhibition arranged by Smithsonian's Sackler Gallery and traveling to the Dallas and Cleveland museums of art, presents a series of strikingly "sensuous" and "sacred" Hindu sculptures of gods and goddesses, especially Shiva and his consort Uma, from India's Chola dynasty period (ninth through 13th centuries C.E.). When these portable sculptures are displayed in Western art museums (and as they largely appear in this catalog), they are seminude, revealing the sensuous nature of the figures with their glowing bronze skin. Yet, as the color photographs from contemporary India document, these sacred icons were intended to be dressed up on festival days in silk robes and elaborate body ornamentation. Providing a rich cultural context, author and exhibition curator Dehejia (Indian art, Columbia) includes essays by other scholars, devotional poetry, and a glossary of Hindu terms. With 185 illustrations (160 in color), this fascinating volume is recommended for academic and larger public libraries that already own more general books on Indian art-e.g., Roy Craven's Indian Art or Dehejia's Art of the Imperial Cholas.-Anne Marie Lane, Univ. of Wyoming, Laramie Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781885444257
Publisher:
American Federation of Arts, The
Publication date:
10/28/2002
Pages:
255

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